Helping you to pick the right style of Dance Class
Lets discuss the pros and cons of examination dance classes and recreational dance classes
Are you unsure wether to enrol your child in an examination dance class or a recreational dance class? There are pros and cons to both styles of dance class. These pros and cons will also differ depending on the age and ability of your child. First lets clarify what these classes are.
What is an Examination Dance Class?
In this style of class, the studio buys an exam syllabus (in the genre of dance being taught, such as Ballet or Jazz) and teaches that syllabus to their students. It is expected that the studio enters a certain number of students to be examined each year. The lesson content is the same each week for approximately 2 to 3 school terms depending when your studio sits their exams.
Students are normally placed in a class of their ability and they will move up with that class when they pass their exam. Most dance syllabi are created for children to succeed, in other words to pass. This means it is very unlikely a student will fail unless they do not know the work.
Examiners are brought into the studio from outside the studio location area, they do not know the students being examined. The studio will close off the room from any public viewing, even the person who plays the music must be turned away/hidden so as not to help in anyway. The examiner watches the students perform all the exercises and dances required of the syllabus at that level and follow a marking procedure to score the student. Every syllabus has different reward settings and pass marks. The dance school should make it clear how the marking is allocated and what a student needs to work on to get good marks. The syllabus will also have a website where you can find more information. Some syllabi give reports with positive affirmations and helpful critique for the student to work on, some only give a mark.
- Muscle Memory: Exam exercises are repetitive, this can help lock in muscle memory. The body learns from repeating the same move over and over. When a dancer is performing they are not thinking about how to do the pirouette, they are thinking about the next step, the actual pirouette is performed purely from muscle memory.
- Progression and Improvement: Exams enable both students and teachers to identify areas that can be improved, thus enabling student progression and improvement.
- Goals: Exams give the student a reason to practice and helps keep the whole class moving together as they progress up.
- Fun: Exams excite those students whom are confident in their knowledge and ability.
- Bad Habits: As mentioned above, an exam syllabus is repetitive and locks in muscle memory. Problems arise when a teacher does not have the relevant skills and is teaching incorrect technique. These learned movements are very difficult to rectify later in a student’s dance career. Check the resume of your teacher, it should be on the studios website. Ensure they are fully certified to teach.
- Repetitive Exercises: A talented student will pick up the syllabus and perform it well very quickly. When these students are made to repeat the same exercise week after week they get bored and technique can sometimes slip backwards. Such students need to be constantly challenged to continually improve.
- Syllabus: Some syllabi is outdated. Do you know if your syllabus is good? Is it being updated regularly? Is it fresh, exciting and innovative for the student of today?
- Comparing Students: Exams divide a dance class with those whom do well in exams and those who don’t. Students compete for best marks. There will always be a mini hierarchy in the dance class of who is best! When there are a few equally good dancers, this competition gets heated and can cause heartache and bitterness, taking away the joy of dancing.
- Stress: Some students just do not cope under stress and will do all matter of mistakes when they step in that exam room, no matter how hard they have practiced.
- Loss of Confidence: Receiving poor exam marks, results in a loss of confidence. Such students are more likely to drop out as the work advances. But dancing is not all about technique, some of the best dancers are those whom are not technically perfect.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Receiving high pass marks can also cause problems. Students can feel pressured to retain or better their marks each year (Examiners no matter how well trained, will have their own personal opinion and marks will differentiate from year to year)
- Cost: Exam fees rise with the age of the child. If your teenager is doing advanced levels you will be looking at around $80 -$120 NZ per exam. And it is likely if your child is still dancing as a teen they are possibly doing a number of different dance classes, all of which will have exams. There will be the added cost of a uniform and dance shoes for each style of dance. Dance clothing and dance footwear is very expensive and unlikely to stay fitted for very long as children grow fast. Having the top shoes and accessories can be very expensive and those who do not have the financial means, can feel ostracised.
What is a Recreational Dance Class?
This style of dance class differs greatly from studio to studio, as the classes are created by individual teachers and studio directors.
Recreational classes focus more on the passion and fun of dance, but most classes will also teach dance exercises integrating technical muscle memory. When performing these exercises , students are given critique to progress and improve, but there is not the pressure of the exercises needing to be perfect to sit an exam. The exercises are changed regularly to keep the students interested.
Recreational classes are usually mixed ability and mixed ages. New choreography is taught regularly and often very fast. The objectives of a recreational class are more performance based and a high regard is placed in a student’s ability to show self-expression and joy when dancing.
- Fun: Recreational classes tend to be lots of fun because there is always new exciting dance moves to learn and more time on the floor, actually doing the business of dancing!
- Camaraderie: Friendships are made easier because everyone is there to support each other. Recreational students see dance more as a team sport than an individual sport.
- Equality: All students are treated equally which helps to give those less technical dancers the confidence to also shine. Students are not compared with each other by exam results.
- Excellence: Talented dancers are pushed to their full potential with new styles and exciting fast paced work.
- Confidence: Students whom are likely to drop out in an exam class are more likely to continue with dance for much longer due to the confidence they gain.
- Goals: Some students and families love to accomplish an exam and have a certificate to prove their ability.
- Accreditation: It is much harder for a recreational dancer to prove on paper their ability. Fortunately, a dancer usually does a physical audition before being asked for their CV.
- Bad Habits: As these classes are being created by the teachers themselves, there is a chance that the teacher has not the relevant skills. It pays to check your teachers resume, it should be on the studio website.
At Dance Evolution Studios in Queenstown, NZ, we believe dance is all about the joy of music and self-expression. We believe that dancers are not just individuals but a team that gives each other positive affirmations and supports each other. We believe that students should be taught exciting dance that can help them realise their full potential. We believe that it is inherently wrong to compare students with marks, as being a great dancer is not only about technique.
Here is a short video sharing some information on our Recreational Dance Fusion Classes.